Running a marathon is a challenge by itself but running the same 42.2km at high altitude is an even greater challenge. Nandini Reddy gives you a few training tips if you want to run a high altitude marathon. 

Any marathon that is run at 5000ft height or above is considered to be a high altitude marathon. One needs to understand the process of acclimatization at these heights. If you are used to running in the plains where you have 100% oxygen, running at high altitudes means you will be running with a deficit of 30% oxygen, which can get progressively lower as you gain altitude.

Your Body in High Altitude

The Ladakh Marathon is one of the most sought after high altitude runs in India. Unlike other marathon’s you will need to arrive at least one week ahead to acclimatize to the weather and oxygen levels. High altitude sickness is occurs when your body does not adjust to the altitude due to lack of oxygen. The air is likely to be rarefied and thin so it is important to arrive before and spend a few days getting used to physical activity in that environment. Short runs and treks will help adjust faster. First time runners need to first run 7km and 10km distances in high altitude before attempting half and full marathons.

Strategy to run at High Altitude

The best strategy for transitioning to high-altitude running depends on  acclimatization time, your age and fitness level.

  • A basic high-altitude nutrition plan should place a strong emphasis on hydration. Water is essential for enabling red blood cells to circulate oxygen in the lungs and the dry air in high altitudes can be leave your dehydrated very quickly.
  • It is also important to follow a low-fat diet whenever you’re training at altitude, as there’s some evidence the body doesn’t digest fat as efficiently at higher elevations.
  • Try incremental training in terms of gaining height. If you are to run at 7000ft then don’t try to fly straight to that height and attempt to acclimatize. Land at a lower height and gain height over the week of training.
  • Avoid smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol as they are worsen breathing
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The Upside

There are many benefits to exercising and running in high altitudes. There is a increase in red blood cells at high altitude which means more oxygen is delivered to your body which helps in improving stamina, muscle strength and reducing body fat percentage. These effects will last for about 15 – 20 days once you return to low altitude but the longer your train in high altitude, the longer these effects will last.

High-altitude athletes aren’t born, they’re made so if you can train right then running at high altitude will be a breeze.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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